Welcome to part four of Model Industry History. This waltz down memory lane still passes through Monogram Models. This episode covers those famous Shep Paine diorama brochures Monogram included with many of their kits in the 1970s.

Monogram Models Diorama Sheets

A few years ago, I was lucky to make the acquaintance of Mr. Robert Johnson III, who was with Monogram Models from 1973 into the 1990s.  He started as a junior draftsman and worked his way into the planning and decision-making realm.  You can read a fuller bio of him in the feature : 

Creating a Model: Concept to Finished Model, Part 1

"Bob" has shared some fascinating stories of the hobby history, including how Lockheed's Kelly Johnson allowed Monogram into the Skunk Works to create the most accurate SR-71 of the era, what happened to Aurora molds and tooling, industry finances, and other "peaks behind the curtain."   Some of those stories have been posted and all are amazing stories.  The following is an insider's story about the famous Shep Paine and his work with Monogram to create those legendary diorama brochures which Monogram included with many of their kits in the 1970s.

Some examples

Some examples

Diorama sheets developed for specific Monogram model kits from 1972 - 1979

Based on data posted on "[email protected].

Year of issue__Kit No.__Subject__Comments

1972 8211 - Jeep & 37mm Gun, black & white format

1972 8212 - Amphibious Weasel, color main image

1972 8214 - 2 1/2-Ton Truck 6X6 Cargo Carrier, color main image

1972 8215 - Armored Half-Track, color main image

1972 8216 - Personnel Carrier, black & white format

1972 8217 - Patton Tank, black & white format

1972 8218 - Panzerkampfwagen Sd.Kfz. 161, b & w format

1972 8219 - Flakpanzer Tank, black & white format

1972 8220 - Sturmgeschuetz IV, black & white format

1973 7505 - Panzerjager IV, color - New kit release

1973 7506 - Sturmpanzer 43, color - New kit release

1973 7535 - British Grant Tank M3, color - New kit release

1973 7536 - US Lee Tank M3, color - New kit release

1974 7546 - Black Widow P-61, color - New kit release

1974 7575 - Devastator TBD-1, b & w - New kit release

1974 7580 - F-15 Eagle, b & w - New kit release

1974 7581 - Panzerspahwagen Sd. Sfz. 242, Color - New kit release

1974 7582 - Ostwind Flakpanzer, color - New kit release

1974 7538 - Dornier DO335 Arrow, b & w - New kit release

1975 4200 - Screamin' Mimi, color - New kit release

1975 4201 - Sherman M4A3, color - New kit release

1975 5600 - B-17G Flying Fortress, color - New kit release

1976 5601 - B-24J Liberator, color - New kit release

1977 5700 - Boeing B-29 Superfortress, color - New kit release

1977 5500 - B-25 Mitchell, color - New kit release

1978 5603 - C-47 Skytrain, color - New Kit release

1978 5502 - B-26 Marauder, completed, but not printed. Placed in Scale Modeler magazine

Something more than "just a model..."

During the 1970's, a very small team of creative people within Monogram

Models worked with famed military miniaturist Shepherd Paine to create

instructional sheets into new armor and aircraft hobby kit releases that

challenged builders to "go beyond simply building a specific kit" and find

new ways to display his completed replica. While it remains difficult to

quantify the impact of the Monogram diorama sheets, they have become

legendary in the past history of the company.   In 2000, Bob Reder wrote in

his book  A Brief History of Monogram Models, "Many model builders

would like to display their "finished works of art" in a natural or realistic

setting.   At that time ( 1970 - 1971), few had any idea of just how to get

started. To expand their knowledge, Monogram commissioned Shepherd

Paine, a noted historian, expert modeler and builder of military miniature

figures to prepare diorama instructions."


As time has passed and no one wrote down precisely how this plan was

transformed from an idea into reality, my thoughts on the genesis of these

creations are based on my knowledge of Bob Reder and Shep and from

working with each of them creating the later diorama sheets from 1975

through 1978.   Monogram senior management was always seeking

innovative ways to promote modeling and encourage the pastime of

building scale model dioramas.   Bob Reder was a truly dedicated

enthusiast of all things mechanical.   Despite his age and snow-white hair,

he was a "kid at heart"!   I do not know how Bob and Shep Paine connected,

but, Shep was well-known for his creative abilities in the military miniature

field and Reder recognized folks with capability and skills.

Addendum: 19 August 2022

With so few of the 1970's Monogram "family" alive, I had decided that

whatever the connection was that introduced Shep Paine to Bob Reder, I

would not discover it.   During my "early days" at Monogram, I had heard

that Art Neckermann of Valiant Enterprises had handled the production of a

little-known series of 54mm metal figures known as "Merite".   I learned that

Mario Falconi had been the "figure model" wearing various uniforms and

costumes so that "pose photos" could be taken.   But, Mario did not have

the answers I was seeking.   I also contacted the "current" Valiant Corps

Miniatures and the person I traded emails with had no idea about Shep


A recent book published about Shep Paine’s creative work provides the

answer.   Tasked with developing a series of Diorama Sheets that would

spur modelers into “going further” than just building an armor and aircraft

model,  Syl Wisniewski visited the “The Hobby Chest” located in Skokie,

Illinois.   It was located on the lower level of an old apartment building just

south of Dempster Avenue and just East of the Edens Expressway.   Some

years later, I visited that shop and found it to be a real metting place for

miniature figure builders.   The owner drove a 1971 VW “THING” painted to

look like a WWII VW in Afrika Corps colors.  True modeler sense of humor.

From the development of the first Monogram Diorama Sheet in 1972 , for

kit no. 8211 / Jeep & 37MM Gun, to the last, kit no. 5501 / B-26 "Marauder",

27 layouts were developed; 26 were printed for insertion into production

kits, and the last, the B-26, debuted in Scale Modeler magazine.   The last

diorama constructed depicted the B-26 "Marauder" assembly line at the

Glenn L. Martin plant in Middle River, Maryland.  Shep located unique "front

surface" mirrors at the American Science Center on Northwest Highway in

Chicago.  Two of these reflected images of one nearly-assembled B-26 and

created an endless scene.   By 1978, costs were rising and a printed

diorama sheet four-color printed on one large format 11" X 17" sheet had

risen to $ .09 cost... this would equate to a retail cost of about $ .27.

Choices were limited to reduce decal sheet size, reduce plan size, or

eliminate the diorama sheet.   Tom Gannon delegated that decision to me.

Costing decisions had been my baileywick since 1974, so not including the

diorama sheet was the best decision.   A connection with Lloyd Jones in

California enabled the text and photos to be offered to Ed Schnepf at

Scale Modeler who agreed to print it.

As time has passed, it has become an "urban legend" that Shep created

the dioramas and the sheets in total, but, that was not true.   His

contribution was the major part in the success of these promotional items

and he should be remembered for introducing countless builders to the

world of creating military and aviation dioramas.  In fact, the process of

developing the "final product" that was printed diorama sheets was

handled by two people when the process began in 1972 and continued

through 1978 when the last diorama sheet art was created.

Shep Paine was responsible for creating and building the diorama.

Usually, that process did not begin until after Shep had assembled a "quick

build" representative model to determine the length and width of the

diorama base and what additional objects and figures would be included

and where they would be positioned.   After that initial meeting, Shep would

assemble and finish the models, alter figures and paint as needed, take "in

process" photos in black & white, and create the diorama base.   Upon

completion, he would write a summary for the body text and call Bob or Syl

for pickup.   One of my duties beginning in mid-1974 was to drive to Shep's

apartment and deliver his work to Monogram. That was my introduction to

Shepherd Paine; a fascinating fellow of extraordinary modeling and

creative skills, a true "history sponge", and a sharp, yet, dry sense of

humor often seen in his diorama and figure work...if you knew where to

look for it.

It was my belief in late 2019 that Monogram photographer Jerry Humbert

and I may be the two Monogram employees still "in this world" who had a

hand in the diorama sheet creative process and we came in "late in the

game".   However, I recently learned Gerry left this world in 2017.  His sense

of humor will never be forgotten.   Procrastinating about capturing these

memories means that fellows who had a hand in this process are no longer

"of this world".   Today, more than 45 years after the fact, I am amazed how

these small number of printed "ideas" are valued and continue to inspire

modelers; particularly "us old guys" who enjoy and understand history!

When I first began working in the Engineering Department, Roger Harney

had been elevated from Manager of the Model Shop to the position of

Director of Engineering in 1970.   He had succeeded Sylvester Wisniewski

who had filled that position since the early 1950's and had worked at Comet

Models with Bob Reder designing free-flite models.   Syl was quite adept at

flying model kit design as was Reder, Sid Axelrod (Top-Flite), Carl

Goldberg (Carl Goldberg), and Al Horback (Monogram).   At the time that

Roger succeeded Syl, Sylvester was given the title of "Director of Special

Projects".   Though he never said anything negative about that change, I

believed that he was not pleased, but, Roger was Bob Reder's "fair-haired

boy", and Syl diligently embraced his altered future focusing on a well-

engineered series of EPS foam rubber-powered aircraft that renewed the

"Speedee Bilt" brand!

Though I had never totaled the number of Diorama Sheets that were

created or listed the dates they first appeared, doing so enabled me to

understand why Syl was really tired of having anything to do with creating

diorama sheets.   He was limited to one page black & white sheets for

existing items such as the existing armor item that debuted in 1972 and

1973 and new items like the 7575 / Devastator TBD-1 and 7580 / F-15

"Eagle".   The first color sheet was the P-61 "Black Widow".   In all, he

worked with Shep Paine to create 16 individual sheets; many one page and

in black and white.   If the “heart” of creating these Diorama Sheets was

Shep Paine, the “soul” was Sylvester Wisniewski!

I had not worked at Monogram very long in 1974, but, had taken on the

"additional duty" of writing the short texts for the instruction sheets. I liked

that duty as I looked upon it as a way to introduce a builder to the history

of the kit he had purchased.  My "guide" was simply to provide basic data

in an interesting manner.   I happened to see the F-15 "Eagle" sheet after it

was printed and commented to Roger that if we were going to do creative

pieces like this, we should at least be technically correct.  Roger

questioned what I meant and I told him that Shep's diorama depicted a

ground crew member with a ground cord cable in his hand walking toward

the aircraft.  TOTALLY wrong in terms on U.S.A.F. Tech Order procedure!

Doing the way shown, ground point-to-aircraft was an excellent way to

create a spark between the aircraft and the ground cord, and potentially

cause an explosion.   Shortly thereafter, I began work with Syl doing the

actual paste-up layouts and writing caption text.  By that time, working with

Shep, Syl had created 15 specific diorama sheets in 3 years; an amazing

achievement! It clearly explained why the sheets were so "cookie cutter" in

layout and execution.

After the P-61 Sheet was complete, Roger asked me to take over the

responsibility for creating new diorama sheets.   I began meeting with Shep

at Monogram and including the kit designer to go over test shot parts that

were typically used for creating new diorama sheets.  Perhaps, not as

important on the armor items like the Ostwind conversion and the

Panzerspahwagen that Bill Koster created, but, crucial as we moved into

the large 1/48th scale aircraft such as the Boeing B-17G and Consolidated


By late 1974, the market was changing.   The "Gas Crisis" of 1973 had a

major impact on everyday life and business.  The hobby kit and toy

business were very reliant on baseline plastic like polystyrene and as

prices per pound increased dramatically, access to "quality" styrene

became quite challenging.   A number of firms that were extruding and

selling Polystyrene plastic pellets found a unique way to extend their profit

margins by adding ground calcium carbonate to the medium impact natural

(milky-colored) plastic and then extruding it into various colors. The

calcium carbonate was literally ground marble and as the percentage

increased, it was no longer possible for "glue".. liquid or tube solvent.. to

effectively "melt" the plastic so that it would bond together. This was a

constant problem for our purchasing agent and molding.

The creation of the two diorama sheets associated with the new Sherman

tank kits, Nos. 4200 and 4201, posed no major challenges.   Sylvester was a

good mentor, but, his heart was into a new EPS Foam "SpeeDee Bilt"

airplane project.   Working with Shep under Bob Reder's guidance, Shep

was encouraged to explore different ways to add interest by adding plastic

armor panels, modifying the suspension systems, and adding exterior

details to the tank hull.   That required additional space for detail photos that

Shep photographed as he built the models for the dioramas and more text

to explain those steps. Since the concept of the diorama sheets was

"Reder's baby", he monitored our steps quite closely.  That was very

welcome as he had a great deal of knowledge about the market and we

were exploring new ideas that would increase interest and sales...even if

that increase was hard to gauge.

The entire 5600 1/48th B-17G "Flying Fortress" was a totally different

challenge.   It would be the largest aircraft model kit developed by

Monogram Models since the 1/72nd scale Boeing B-52D in 1968.   It would

also be the largest 1/48th scale aircraft model kit ever created.   In

retrospect nearly 50 years later, it was a "Slam dunk",  but, it was not

perceived that way in the Spring of 1974 when the project was debated at

length and seen as a very significant gamble.   The V.P. of Marketing, David

Wayne, had worked as a Mattel salesman and had that degree of "daring

do" that characterizes successful toy salesmen who have to be risk takers...

like Felix Sabates marketing Teddy Ruxpin.   Dave believed he could create

a lot of "spin" to place a large item (in box size) with mass merchant

customers as Christmas gifts for 1975.   While that sounded "great", it

would totally change the logistics of manufacturing and shipping.

These large-scale aircraft projects provided a new promotional item for

mass-merchant customers like K-Mart, Toy-R-Us, and smaller chain stores

to use as Christmas gift items.   In order to meet these large volume

production numbers, the molds had to be ready for production molding by

the third week of July with initial shipments to mass merchant customers

taking place at the end of September, and this schedule placed a direct

impact on the development of the associated Diorama Sheet.

Design began in the late Spring of 1974 and progressed in the typical

Monogram manner with three engineers working on part drawings; George

Baskys managing the project and drawing large parts like the fuselage

halves, and wing tops and bottoms; Mario Falconi drawing the interior floor

and bulkhead structures, and me, doing small parts... guns, turrets, the

bomb cart and wheels, 750-pound bombs, and small interior parts.   First

test shots were available in March of 1975 and Reder, Roger, and I met with

Shep to discuss ideas.  We had four sets of "first test shot" parts trees for

him, but, only two clear trees as that mold had yet to have line details

added and the cavity and core polished to a 3000 Diamond mirror finish.

Shep was hyped about doing a crash scene somewhere in England in

1944.   His ideas were to explore weathering techniques and ways to thin

down molded wings and stabilizer parts so that battle damaged surfaces

would appear more realistic.   His goal to be complete was the first Monday

following July 4th of 1975.   It was "Monogram tradition" to close down for

the first two weeks of July each year.  The time was used to do needed

work on Monogram's ageing molding machines and packaging assembly

lines.   That would change in 1978, but, the B-17G diorama presented Shep

with a deadline that was very dependent on the ability to supply him with

better clear parts... the clear nose of the B-17G was not to be one of those

"better parts" and Shep polished out the parts that he was given.. and they

did not have final part line detail.   No one in the modeling world ever


Well aware of the required annual two-week vacation each July, that

schedule had a negative impact on the creation, printing, and availability

of the Diorama sheet enclosure, so, my two-week vacation began on the

Thursday of the third week in June. Our two weeks were planned for my

folk's home on Lady's Island near Beaufort, SC and 1975 was our first

"road trip" with our new Capri II. This schedule allowed me to be back in

Illinois by the first Thursday in July and meeting with Shep to pickup his

completed diorama on Friday.  These large dioramas just barely fit into the

Capri with the rear seat folded down.. I gave Shep a length and width that

was the maximum size that would fit in the Capri.. "gotta love hatchbacks"!

My work began when the fellows in plastics who were working on

machine maintenance would let me in through the side door in plastics. Hy

Shapiro had a key that would give me access to the offices and my

drawing board was the "new home " for the "year's new diorama".. the first

task was to read Shep's write-up detailing assembly and modifications that

he had incorporated.  When we met at the time of pickup, an hour or so

committed to discussing each project was very beneficial.   His black &

white sequence photos served as a starting point.. then studying the

diorama and determining angles that would portray the most interesting

details came next.  Time in the photo studio using a Polaroid to shoot

various angles provided the images for the Company photographer; Dave

Dahm followed by Gerry, to use as a basis for 4" X 5" color transparencies

to be created. Captions were written for each photo... a short summary of

the "Building Notes" was "diorama specific".   The main body text was

developed by Shep and Syl for the P-61 Black Widow and I adjusted this

text to fit the B-17G and subsequent dioramas... with more changes and

written creativity added with each passing year.  While tasked with a tight

schedule, the simple fact that this became a "once a year" project enabled

it be challenging and "new".   The "professional photos" would begin

on the first Friday in July, and the typed text would be sent out to the shop

that created formatted copy (before computerized text format) so that I

could have that back on the Monday or Tuesday of the second week in

July.  While most employees were coming back with stories of their

vacation, my work area looked like a tornado passed through and I was

typically laying out the "Story Boards" so that the package could be

reviewed with the printer by the end of the week.

Monogram Kit 5501 - Martin B-26 "Marauder"

The final diorama sheet was planned for the B-26 "Marauder", kit number

5501.   The B-26 kit was designed by Clark Macomber and I had found a

wealth of technical drawings in the lower level of the Middle River office

building of Glenn L. Martin Company.   Shep was seeking a vignette totally

different than a flight line or damaged aircraft setting.   He was fascinated by

a store on Northwest Highway in Chicago known as American Science

Center.   The varied items within the store truly served to motivate Shep into

finding materials that could be adapted to his modeling work.   In 1976,

when he was developing idea for the #5601 B-24J "Liberator" diorama, he

found a portable air compressor that harkened back to the 1950's and

perhaps earlier.   It served as the basis for the air compressor used in the

"formating aircraft diorama" and he created it by heavily modifying an HO

scale farm tractor!

When we discussed his ideas for an assembly line of "Marauders", he

was enthused about finding "front surface mirrors"; glass with the silvering

on the front surface rather than the rear, thus, eliminating any gap caused

by the glass thickness. It was expensive for the time.   Roger agreed to the

cost and Shep was really pleased.   Once he knew the sizes, he had the

glass cut to the needed size.

By 1978, costs had risen for the ancillary items such as decal, assembly

plan, and the diorama sheet.   Of course, there was a continual "battle" to

provide the best decal sheet possible even though a kit-supplied sheet

would never equal an aftermarket product.   I met with Tom Gannon to

discuss the gross margins on several new kit projects and the only one

that did not meet expected numbers; the B-26.   I advised Tom that this kit

had two parts molds with the fuselage halves in one mold and the wing

parts in the other.

This process took place each year through the B-24J "Liberator"(1976),

B-29 "Superfortress" (1977), C-47 "Dakota" (1978), B-25 "Mitchell" (1979)

and the B-26 "Marauder" (1979).   Each was fun and challenging to do and

represented the best efforts of Shep Paine and fellows like Dave Daum and

Gerry Humbert.   It was easy to believe that the dioramas were the "end

result", and "after the fact", they were displayed in various locations within

Monogram Models until some were given away and the balance, such as

the B-17G, B-24J, and B-29 were moved to the Hobbico offices.  The true

"end product" was the printed sheets that have proven to be collectible and

are available online.  Each was a work of very creative people: Shep Paine

above all others... Sylvester Wisniewksi...a "true pro".. Dave Dahm and

Gerry Humbert who brought Shep's work to countless modelers.. and

lastly, me.   A really unique experience.

- RAJ3

A little more...

I meant to add a little more that Bob told me:

      Bill Koster designed the Panzespahwagen, Ostwind conversion, and the M-8/M-20 armored cars.  Mario Falconi created the two "Sherman" kits and I assisted him doing some of the part drawings.

       Shep and Syl sure had their hands full creating 9 dioramas and sheet in about 3 months.   At least Shep worked with actual production parts since the kits were re-releases from 8211 - 8217.   Look at the Diorama Sheet for the B-17G, you will note that the clear nose part has NO ENGRAVING on the part!!  It was a "first test shot" piece and often that complicated Shep's building!!    

    Monogram was in deep trouble in 1971.... Mattel bought Monogram in October/November of 1969 and immediately told Besser to disassociate Monogram from the Manufacturer's Rep. Group...independent sales reps across the country.   The 'idea' of the Handlers was that Monogram could be sold to wholesale distributors by the internal Mattel sales force.   That "concept" was deeply flawed.  The Matterl sales people were SALARIED rather than working on commission and had no concept of model kits or the market.  They also DID NOT call on hobby wholesale distributors.   Monogram sales plummeted after the crash of slot car racing in 1968..... I am sure that the idea of Diorama Sheets came from Bob Reder in 1971, and the first 8 items were planned to be released in 1972.

That means that Shep's building and Syl's layout work had to be done during the last half of 1971.



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